What is ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’?
Section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 states that a person will have ‘no recourse to public funds’ if they are ‘subject to immigration control’. This means they have no entitlement to the majority of welfare benefits, including income support, housing benefit and a range of allowances and tax credits.
Examples of groups with no recourse to public funds include:
- Unaccompanied Asylum Seeing Children (UASC) Care Leavers: UASC who have ‘aged out’ of the care system, who are yet to receive a determination of immigration status in their favour.
- ‘Zambrano’ carers: primary carers of British citizen children, where the primary carer is not an EEA national.
- People in the UK on a spousal visa, student visa, or who have limited leave granted under family or private life rules.
NRPF individuals can, nevertheless, be eligible for assistance from their local authorities for a range of services including education and social care. Local authorities have duties under a legislation that includes the National Assistance Act 1948, the Children Act 1989 and the Human Rights Act 1998. Consequently, boroughs are often left with the responsibility to provide for subsistence and accommodation needs that, under different circumstances, would be centrally funded. At the moment, local authorities receive no additional funding for these costs.
A wealth of information on the NRPF condition can be found on the website of the NRPF Network.
What support are London Boroughs providing?
London Councils carried out a detailed survey of London boroughs to understand the nature of support they are providing.
- London boroughs spent £53.7 million in support of an estimated 2,881 households with NRPF in 2016/17.
- The estimated average total annual expenditure was nearly £1.7 million per borough.
- The estimated average annual cost per household was nearly £19,000.
Differences across London boroughs
- Pressures are not uniform across London, with a group of six boroughs reporting both caseloads and expenditure at levels significantly above the London average.
- These six boroughs typically spent around £5 million a year each on support for an average of 265 NRPF households. Collectively they accounted for approximately 59 per cent of spend and for 56 per cent of households supported across the capital in 2016/17.
- A further group of eight boroughs spent between £1 million and £2 million on supporting an average of 73 households a year.
- The remaining 18 boroughs on average spent around £0.5 million on support for 32 households.
Nature of support
- The average time spent supporting cases was 22 months in 2016/17.
- 94 per cent of reported NRPF expenditure was on just three cost categories: Accommodation (65 per cent), Council employees (15 per cent) and Subsistence (14 per cent).
- Support is primarily provided through duties aligned with Children’s Services under the Children Act 1989.
- ‘UASC care leaver’ was the most common case type.
- 17 respondents reported a collective total of 1,611 dependent children of primary and/ or secondary school age in supported NRPF households in 2016/17, at an average of 95 per borough. This would suggest that just over 3,000 children may be in NRPF households across London.
What collaborative proactive work is happening across London boroughs?
While London Councils continues to call for this significant unfunded cost burden to be recognised and met, member boroughs have been proactive in their approach to managing their duties in this area, with 25 now using NRPF Connect to improve case management and cost control.
NRPF Connect is an integrated database and case management system delivered by the NRPF Network. It helps local authorities meet their data management and immigration status checking needs in relation to supporting adults, families and care leavers with NRPF, as well as enabling accurate monitoring of caseloads. Resolution of cases is achieved via the direct interaction on a case by case basis with the Home Office that it facilitates. This aspect of the system is underpinned by a Service Level Agreement between NRPF Connect and the Home Office.
Overall, NRPF Connect helps local authorities save money by:
- Reducing staff time spent chasing the Home Office for information.
- Reducing staff time spent gathering and consolidating information about caseloads in terms of cost and immigration status for data sharing or monitoring purposes.
- Getting priority cases resolved with urgency by the Home Office.
- Preventing fraudulent claims being made in multiple authorities.
Authorities in London have also sought to assist particularly vulnerable groups through the London Councils Grants Programme. This has provided essential support for projects that have benefitted a significant number of vulnerable individuals, many of whom have already challenging personal circumstances compounded by their NRPF status.
What needs to happen in the future?
The annual spend of at least £50 million across London is a direct cost shunt resulting from central government policy that must be funded appropriately by the Government. This pressure is particularly acute in the six boroughs that have responsibility for over half of the households in London between them, as they must find between £3 and 8 million per annum to meet need. If boroughs are expected to provide this essential support, it is crucial that they are provided with the resources required to do so. This expenditure provides a vital safety net for some of the most vulnerable living in the capital. Many have complex needs requiring support over a sustained period that must be funded from diminishing resources in the context of rising service delivery costs.
This issue continues to a priority for London Councils, and we are actively developing our practice, policy and campaigning work in this area.